Sports melodrama writ large

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The new "Pay Josh Cribbs" billboard presents an opportunity to talk about timing and populism. And since we're here for the kids, and education is the bedrock of a fulfilled life, we're not going to let this opportunity for a lesson go by the wayside.

Let's hop into the Wayback Machine to start the discussion. Let's go back to the first week of the year and the Josh Cribbs contract saga. Remember the media blitz that Cribbs and his agents launched? They were "insulted" with the Browns' most recent contract offer to the Pro Bowler and, even though newly appointed czar Mike Holmgren had barely had time to unload a box of knick-knacks to set up on his desk, the Cribbs camp wanted a deal done. Pronto. Dawn Aponte, now with the Miami Dolphins, made the infamous "final offer" comments. Cribbs cleaned out his locker and told everyone that he doubted he'd be back with the Browns next year. His agents said they would ask for a trade without a new deal, and it was going to be the end of the world!

Of course, rational people figured that while Holmgren and company probably didn't appreciate Cribbs' negotiating strategy, once the rest of the front office was in place and things were settled in Berea, something would get done. The two would come back to the table with clearer heads, no BS media positioning and posturing, and the Browns would finally pay the man.

In the meantime, it was fair game to get riled up about the perceived slight and "insulting" offer. The groundswell of public support for Cribbs that had been constant throughout the season crescendoed — although there were a few dissenters — and the "Pay the Man" campaign reached top gear. There were Twitter hashtags, T-shirts, blog posts and even "pay the man" pizzas delivered to Browns headquarters by some ingenious pizza place near Berea. And then there was the Cribbs billboard campaign organized by Mike Randall, or as Browns fans better know him, Dawg Pound Mike.

Skip forward to the present day. Cribbs and the Browns are both saying a deal could be near.

Cribbs recently went on Tony Rizzo's morning show on WKNR-AM 850 and said that he thinks a deal could be done before the February 25 scouting combine. According to the Pro Football Talk website, Cribbs said, "It's going really well. I'll be really happy when it's final and done. [I expect it] sometime here before the combine ... I'm satisfied how quickly they're moving."

Present day is also when the Cribbs billboard was erected on the corner of East 14 Street and Carnegie Avenue, to collective yawns and "Oh, right, I remember something about saber-rattling and being nervous about his contract a while ago" remarks.

To be fair, using a billboard to tackle a time-sensitive news topic is probably not the best idea in the world — there's the fundraising, the design, the approval, getting the space and the actual installation. You run the risk of being completely irrelevant, a belated exercise in futility — as this one surely is — by the time it's up. This would be something you would expect anyone in marketing to understand, so we can forgive Randall for the error in judgment since that's not what he does. (What's that? He runs a marketing company? Oh. Well, never mind.)

Which reminds me: I finally raised enough money for my "Dear Mark, Please Keep CC in Cleveland" billboard. It should be installed across from the Jake very soon!

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